“In parliament, the process for new cannabis laws started a few months ago, and it looks realistic that we will have a regulated (recreational) cannabis market in the next 3 years.”
Cannabis patients in Switzerland have had a lot of reasons to celebrate this year as the country has passed several canna-friendly laws. On August 1st, medical cannabis was legalized and patients can now obtain a prescription for their medication. Patients were even allowed to cultivate their own cannabis at home. Switzerland will also start exporting cannabis to other markets. Lastly, an adult-use trial program has been rolled out in Basel, signifying that it's only a matter of time before cannabis is fully legalized in “the playground of Europe.”
Whatever is happening in Switzerland is very exciting not just for Europe but for the world at large. Switzerland joins other great nations such as Germany and Israel that are “being closely monitored” by the global cannabis community. Should these countries legalize cannabis, there’s likely to be a domino effect that will spark a new wave of legalizations around the world. As far as the global conversation on cannabis goes, Switzerland is a country to watch.
We spoke to Ben Arn to get an insider view of the cannabis industry in Switzerland. Ben is deeply involved in Switzerland's cannabis industry. As the CEO of Canna Trade, he has organized several high-profile cannabis events, including the Cannabinoid Conference 2022 which will be taking place in Basel later in the year.
Can you briefly introduce Ben Arn and how your career path lead you to the cannabis industry?
Ben has been the organizer of Cannabis Events in Switzerland since 2006. His projects are the CannaTrade – International Cannabis Expo (B2B and B2C) in Bern, the CB Expo – Cannabis Business Expo (b2b), and the CB Club – Cannabis Business Network event in Zurich.
In 2022 he will also organize the Cannabinoid Conference 2022 (12th IACM Conference and 1st SSC Conference) in Basel.
He started his career back in 2004 as an activist, collecting signatures for the “Swiss Hemp Initiative.” He combines his passion for organizing events and connecting people with his passion for the cannabis plant and its enormous potential.
What's the inspiration behind Canna Trade?
CannaTrade is the oldest existing “classic” hemp fair in Europe for B2B and B2C. The inspiration is to live cannabis in all aspects. Since the beginning, CannaTrade has been supporting hemp (food, clothes, cosmetics, construction material, etc.) (CannaComix exhibition) and small companies next to being a very professional event for big brands. For CannaTrade's customers, CannaTrade is organizing the Joint Roll Contest (Swiss Championship), the CannaSwiss Cup (for the best CBD flowers and hash), and always provides a huge & chilling outdoor area for smoking, drinking, and eating at the famous “Hemp Food Festival”.
What are your feelings about the current status of Swiss cannabis/hemp laws?
Since the 1st of August this year, cannabis patients (finally!) will be able to gain easy access to cannabis as medicine. They are now allowed to grow and export medical cannabis in Switzerland. And on the 15th of September, the first legal recreational flower will be sold in Basel, at the pilot project of “Weed Care”. Many more pilot projects in various Swiss cities will follow in the next few months. In parliament, the process for a new cannabis law started a few months ago, and it looks realistic, that we will have a regulated (recreational) cannabis market in the next 3 years.
Do you see Switzerland permitting home grows for medical cannabis patients in the near future?
I really hope that! The details of the new (recreational) cannabis law will be discussed in the near few months, and it's important now, that all patients and patient associations will work for the home grow permission. From my side, I will always support the point of home growing, as this was my basic reason to start working as an activist 20 years ago: Every plant, and especially a plant like cannabis, should be allowed to grow in everyone's garden.
What were some of the highlights of this year's CannaTrade?
It was the biggest CannaTrade ever! More than 300 exhibitors on 10'000m2, sunshine, happy people, and a very funny and super-fast Joint Roll Contest Swiss Championship. 10'000 happy visitors were the highlights of the three days.
The CBExpo – Cannabis Business Expo is coming up soon in Zurich. What are some of your expectations for this event?
I look forward to welcoming more than 60 speakers from all over the world, which will be talking on our three different stages:
- The Main Stage for the big panel discussions,
- The Education Stage for detailed speeches about various topics from cultivation to business development
- The INCBA Stage is where the most important international Cannabis Lawyers will talk about important regulations coming up.
It will be a blast!
And next to the great content I look forward to seeing people having fun and enjoying networking in a very relaxed atmosphere, which is unique at CB Expo.
Let's talk about Adult-use Cannabis in Europe. How are things likely to play out in the next 3-5 years?
It's a very interesting race between Germany and Switzerland, as both countries are talking hard about a serious and complete regulation of recreational Cannabis. Switzerland is moving on, and I'm pretty sure, that we will have the regulation latest in 2025. For Germany, I hope that they will do it too, as this will be the door breaker for Europe. Let's see!
What's your take on the ongoing pilot program for recreational use of cannabis in Switzerland? Was this the best approach?
The best thing is that it's happening. We know (from Canada, Uruguay, etc.) that regulations bring a lot of positive aspects, and we know from many years of prohibition that this failed. But it's the Swiss way to start something slow and steady. I support it whenever I can.
What's next for Canna Trade?
CannaTrade 2023 will be back in Zurich from May 12-14, 2023, with a lot of fun for b2c customers, and with the usual professional setup for our business visitors.
It was a great pleasure to have this one-on-one with Ben from Canna Trade. Readers who wish to keep up with the company are more than welcome to visit their website.